YAMANASHI: Are you the type of person who likes the idea of camping but can’t get off the couch after considering the logistics involved in buying and packing tents, cooking equipment, blankets, thermal underwear and bug spray - and then hauling all that equipment to some camping site with no WiFi?
Happily for you, clever hoteliers have come up with a version of camping without any of the hardships that gives you debilitating PTSD flashbacks to your basic military training days of creepy crawlies and the lack of basic plumbing.
This is glamour camping - or glamping - taken to another level. One of the best examples of this is situated not in the wilderness of South Africa but just two hours away (in a very comfortable bus) from central Tokyo.
TENT? WHAT TENT?
Hoshinoya Fuji (from ¥45,000 per room per night; return bus tickets from Tokyo cost ¥1,800 per person), on the edge of picturesque Lake Kawaguchiko, takes the rough out of roughing it. For starters, the setting is spectacular. The six-hectare grounds are shrouded in thick forests of maple, cedar and pine. In spring, the cherry trees explode in extravagant pink.
Instead of tents, guests turn down in one of 40 minimalist concrete shells lined along a small wooded clearing. The all-white interiors are a little austere, but in the same way that, say, the Apple store is - which is to say, tastefully low-key.
Each spacious room leads out to a balcony which holds either a woodstove, or a kotatsu, a traditional table with undercover heating - the better to stay warm and toasty while watching the sun set over Lake Kawaguchi.
And through the immense double-height window in each room looms the Hoshinoya’s star attraction: Mount Fuji itself.
The silhouette of the famous volcanic cone with its year-round crown of snow forms a surreal backdrop. At night, from your white soft-linened bed, its shadowy presence is visible, literally lit by a blaze of stars - a cascade of white lights like fine talcum powder on black velvet.
YOU’D HAVE TO TRY VERY HARD TO BREAK A SWEAT
Every creature comfort is attended to. Upon checking in, you get to pick a stylish back-pack from a high wall lined with different styles. This, you get to keep and use during your stay. Inside are a flashlight, water-bottle, map, biscuits, insect repellent, and binoculars. And an inflatable cushion because heaven forbid that you would ever have to sit on a hard surface while camping.
Chances are, though, that you’ll ever only use the binoculars the entire trip - mainly to peer at birds flitting through the tree-tops, and to stare at distant Mount Fuji.
Even the activities at Hoshinoya are designed to maintain the mere illusion of camping out in the wild and everyone, not least the 80-odd staff, including butlers who are assigned to each room, does their best to keep a straight face.
If you’re feeling particularly like a lumberjack, there is wood-chopping in the midst of the forest, an activity that is accompanied by polite applause and gentle encouragement from the staff member assigned to supervise you.
Meanwhile, personalised stations are set up to make pizza in the bijou wood-fired oven. Don’t worry, all the ingredients including the dough, are already prepared.
Of course, if all this hard outdoorsy work begins to take its toll, there are any number of nooks, including a secluded tent that doubles as a study and library, to which you can retreat with a cup of hot chocolate and a book.
In the evening, while watching a classic film - imagine Casablanca or Paper Moon being projected onto the sails of a white tent, under a canopy of maple trees - you could smoke up some s’mores on the blazing camp fire. Which, if it’s not already clear, you never have feed with wood to keep it going because there’s always someone at hand to ensure the quotation marks stay firmly set around the words “roughing it”.
“Guests love the fact that they do not have to prepare any items, but can simply enjoy the outdoor experience surrounded by vast nature,” said Hoshinoya’s general manager, Yuichi Sawada.
It’s something of an understatement, but by now, you’re hardly surprised. If the resort was any more laid-back, it would be horizontal.
“We take care of everything else,” said Sawada, “so that the luxury glamping experience encompasses special experiences such as a wild game course dinner at our outdoor kitchen.”
Which, again, you don’t have to hunt, much less clean and cook.
Such is life.
GLAMPING SOUND UP YOUR ALLEY? HERE ARE FOUR MORE TO TRY
1. Amanwana (Moyo Island, Indonesia)
With just 20 white luxury tents, this tropical island haven replete with wild deer and crystalline waterfalls just got a lot more accessible with a new direct seaplane transfer from Bali. From US$750 per night.
2. Le Monteil Revolution (Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France)
This futuristic wide dome is furnished with all the mod-cons of a contemporary home. The magic begins when you step outside, and find yourself in a bucolic working farmstead. In the south of France, no less. From €550 for seven nights.
3. Copper Creek Villas & Cabins (Orlando, Florida)
Glamping the Disney way is actually a thing. Located at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge in Florida, 183 rustic (but actually very luxurious) villas and cabins are set around a river bend in the Magic Kingdom. Prices on request.
4. Minam River Lodge (Lostine, Oregon)
Set in 126 acres of untamed nature in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, this 1950s hunting lodge has been thoroughly upgraded without losing any of its sexy rough edges. From US$245 per night, minimum three night stay.